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Cold Heaven [Paperback]

Brian Moore
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Mar 1995
Marie Davenport wants to leave her husband Alex, and is planning to tell him at the end of their holiday on the French Riviera. Before she manages to tell him, however, he is killed in a horrendous boating accident. She returns to her lover in the States, but finds a surprise in store for her.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New edition edition (20 Mar 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006548318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006548317
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 497,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

On holiday in the south of France, Dr Alex Davenport is caught up in a fatal accident at sea. His wife, Marie, suddenly finds herself in the bitterly ironic position of a woman who has lost the husband she had been planning to leave for another man – she had just been waiting for the right time to tell him. A day later, however, she is summoned to the hospital to be told hat his body has disappeared from the morgue. Returning in confusion to the hotel, she then discovers that his clothes, passport and plane ticket have also gone …

Moving from the Riviera to the coast of California, 'Cold Heaven' is a compulsive and hypnotic tale of the bizarre, the inexplicable, the supernatural and the eccentricities of everyday life.

“A master of narrative … deeply compelling … classic Moore.”

“Striking and strange, 'Cold Heaven' is told with the panicky sense of urgency at which Moore excels.”

“A brilliant novel.”

“'Cold Heaven' is extraordinary … such an absorbing story that we take the miraculous in our stride.”

'No Other Life, The Colour of Blood, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne' and many other novels by Brian Moore are available in Flamingo.

About the Author

Brian Moore, whom Graham Greene called his ‘favourite living novelist’, was born in Belfast in 1921. He emigrated to Canada in 1948, where he became a journalist and adopted Canadian citizenship. He spent some time in New York before settling in California.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hit by a speedboat 18 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
An intriguing, concise and brilliant novel - exploring belief, unbelief and paranoia. Marie is on a post-conference jaunt with her pathologist husband, Alex, planning to tell him that she is leaving him for Daniel, also a doctor, when Alex is hit by a speedboat in an accident while swimming and is taken to a French hospital where he is pronounced dead. But Alex is not dead. The blow to his head has induced symptoms which slow his heart down so radically that he can relapse and seem dead, even though he is not. He walks out of the hospital (dressed in doctor's scrubs) and leaves France without telling his wife. It is possible that he has forgotten her altogether at this point, since his memory is faulty. However, Marie tracks him down to their apartment in New York and there follows something of an adventure as he relapses and recovers in various states and in various cities. They end up in Carmel, California, where a year ago Marie had a strange religious experience - even though she is profoundly anti-religious. She becomes convinced that she is being persecuted and that, somehow, her husband's recovery depends on her actions in relation to the religious experience. This scenario is delicately enhanced and worked through to a satisfactory ending.

Brian Moore is one of the best novelists working in the form - each of his books has a depth and intelligence beyond many of the writers of today. His prose is plain and yet subtle, bringing characters to life with just a few words of dialogue. His creativity is ingenious as he tussles with some of the concepts - religious belief and non-belief in this novel - that would defeat other writers. Human beings are strange creatures and there is no one better than Moore when it comes to explaining why they do the wrong thing or the right thing (or indeed anything!), and why it is sometimes arbitrary that they have self-knowledge or even a half-understanding of some of their own actions, thoughts and feelings.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cold Ending 15 Dec 2011
By nini
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was disappointed by this book. The initial urgency and tension were slowly suffocated by monotony. He didn't seem to go anywhere with his ideas and ultimately I felt I didn't understand the main character or what her thought processes were. By the end of the story she seemed illogical and two dimentional - along with the rest of the characters!! I SO wanted a good ending to a good start, but was left very disappointed.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, absorbing, perfectly-crafted thriller 18 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Having read many recently published books and not found many that I would give a rave review, I asked myself what book WOULD I rave about and thought about "Cold Heaven", which I read several years ago yet remember as vividly as if it were yesterday. The novel pulled me in with its unique, "Twilight Zone" plot, then deftly introduced other themes on the nature of love, sanity, spirituality and Catholicism. It is truly a gripping, haunting book, and a good introduction to Moore, who has written several other superb novels--although none, in my opinion, as memorable as this. One final note: avoid at all costs the film based on the book, a botched job if there ever was one
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Succeeds 14 July 2001
By Paul McGrath - Published on
This is the second Brian Moore novel I've read and if there is a pattern emerging it is that his books are intensely readable. I defy you to read the first ten pages of this book and try to set it down. It isn't going to happen. That said, though, the book does not completely succeed from an artistic standpoint.

The story starts off as a simple mystery. An American woman is vacationing in France with her husband. She wants to separate from him and is indeed planning to announce this to him when he is involved in a boating accident and killed. The following day, she returns to the hospital to which he was taken, and is told that his body has disappeared.

Pretty gripping, admittedly, and sure enough, the reader finds himself happily engaged in discovering what this mystery is all about. But very quickly, we sense something unusual about this woman. Her thoughts and actions do not seem normal; in fact, they become somewhat bizarre. It is then that we learn that there is something else going on here; something much larger than the mystery at hand. We realize that the husband's disappearance is only a minor element of this other aspect.

I cannot reveal what it is; it would ruin the experience of the earlier mystery. Let me just say that there is a supernatural element which leads to a thought-provoking theme: what is it that we want from this life? Salvation? Freedom? Privacy? It would appear that not all of us are involved in a lifelong, soul-searching quest for enlightenment, even when it is handed to us on a silver platter. And that this is not necessarily a bad thing.

My complaint with the novel lies in the fact that not all the pieces fit together. There are several threads which are begun and left in the air and one gets the disturbing sense that this was deliberate. They are red herrings meant to deceive us. What were the husband's notes, for example? Much time is spent in showing us his writing them and her searching for them. And then they are never mentioned again. What was that about? And the fat man with the dogs. He appears out of nowhere, seems to have a malevolent presence at several significant events, then vanishes. Why is he even there? Of course, the entire beginning subplot steers us in the wrong direction to begin with.

Clearly, these things are intentional, and I'm not sure why. Leading the reader into blind alleys does not advance the novel thematically or in any other way. But it is nevertheless an enjoyable book, and will inspire at least a little thoughtful introspection on the part of the reader.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Unbelieving adultress" & divine intervention 4 Jun 2006
By John L Murphy - Published on
I had read this when it came out originally, since a book review had set up the main plot--which since it is mentioned on this site in summary, it will not be a spoiler now--what if Mary appeared to you and you said, basically, forget it? Fantastic idea, and not a bad book. Moore occupies the space between popular and literary novelist, and this book shows his skill and his shortcomings. The former qualities outweigh the latter. But you gain little sense of people in this work, with oddly some of the minor characters like Sister Anne, Herb Luddington, or at times Father Niles. The supporting cast generally seems, however, there to only advance the maddeningly circular direction of this book.

As a related aside, I have seen the very convent that Moore borrows for his novel. The convent's set off memorably on the inland side of the highway from Big Sur as it nears Carmel, yet the drama of its riparian location and nearby Point Lobos is felt here only sporadically. The sensation of place that needs to be so powerful as to haunt Marie and entice ourselves comes fitfully and intermittently. Instead, we get lots of information about who ordered what from the lodge's waitress or rectory housekeeper or attending nun. These details add little to the novel, and they detract attention from the more disturbing undertow that sweeps Marie along. That is what matters in the story, and this is why we're reading it. Not to find out which characters had what for breakfast.

Luckily, after over 20 years I had forgotten the details that convey what pace or suspense the novel needs to build in order to convince us. Rereading it, I wondered how Moore would carry the ending off, and he delays enough information to keep you curious until he reveals all the details of what Mary said, how she said it, and when. Marie's predicament's kept up to the last line of the novel rather skillfully. Still, the cumulative impact of the novel adds up to less than a sum of the parts: "unbelieving adultress" is how the visionary-protagonist describes herself. Certainly promising material. However, after the initial apparition to Marie's related, the rest of the novel's more concerned with filtering her reactions to the apparition through those she suspects are shadowing her--both seen and unseen messengers of God's will.

A deity neither all-loving or all-merciful, apparently. As in other modern visionary accounts, the divine visits upon the seer a vengeful presence that--and Moore does not raise what would have been a more appropriate context given 20c Marian visions--often threatens doom upon those who do not heed warnings from above. Moore sidesteps any durable connection between what Marie recalls and what others claim they see, and this lack of interest by the omniscient narrator saps the novel's latter half of much potential energy. She's not a very sympathetic character, and while this is appropriate for how the novel progresses, it does leave the reader with nobody else to identify much with.

The whole apocalyptic-vs.-restorative nature of the message Marie reports barely registers. Surely this aspect, given Marie's evident unease, would spark more reactions than the Monsignor's rather sophisticated one. Not that I disagree with this cleric's advice to Marie. It's just that she needed more counter-arguments to heighten the impact of her message and its predicted ramifications. [For two other non-fiction studies since then (both written in the aftermath of the Medjugorge apparitions which began in 1985; intriguingly those claimed of "moving statues" in Moore's native Ireland began also just a couple of years after this novel appeared) see Randall Sullivan's The Miracle Detective and Sandra Zimdars-Swartz' academic but accessible Encountering Mary. For some reason, the same error repeats in Sullivan and Moore: spelling the Mexican site of Guadalupe by the French island's name of Guadaloupe.]

Still, this is a thoughtful, if rather quickly written (so it seems to me in the massive amount of mundane detail and plot points entered into but not fully explored), theological thriller. Not that it's scary in the obvious sense or half-baked like certain more currently famed novels on Catholic skulduggery. It does get under your skin if you let it, despite its flaws. The central theme's so inherently interesting that it allows you as a reader to cut the novel some slack. So, in spite of an uneven pace and too many underdeveloped scenes "Cold Heaven" manages to remain rather plausible in its main character's arc. A feat to be discounted in our determinedly secularized yet stubbornly irrational era!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Belief Is In the Eye of the Beholder 15 April 2002
By Bruce Rux - Published on
This is a failed novel, but a pretty good book. It doesn't really have a plot, but is instead a story designed to illustrate how perceptions shape individual realities.
A woman and her husband vacationing in the south of France have their trip cut short by his fatal accident - well, sort of. Seems he just won't stay put in the morgue. She thinks it has something to do with a vision of the Virgin Mary she once had - even though she long ago renounced her Catholicism. He implies (though never outright states) that he understands why he isn't dead, and doesn't want to be discovered until he has "recovered" from his rigor mortis-ish condition, for fear that he will be regarded as a freak. A nearby convent gets involved in the wife's reluctant vision quest, which she avoids because she doesn't want to attract publicity to her hiding husband or her own affair with another man.
The story is almost a black comedy as written by Dean Koontz. (In fact, Koontz has used variations of these plotlines in his books, namely Strangers, Shadowfires, and Mr. Murder, to name a few.) Nothing is clearly answered or resolved by the end of the story, though there are strong implications made in a number of different directions as to why the bizarre phenomena are occurring. In essence, the reader fills in his own blanks and virtually writes the story of his choice according to whose perceptions he agrees with. It's almost a Rorschach blot for belief systems.
It's also quite a good read. It will definitely not be to everyone's tastes. If you're looking for a comprehensive, standard novel, you'll be horribly disappointed. If you simply want to spend a while walking the line of Faith, examining it from every different angle and psychologically exploring the different human mechanisms of belief, you'll be endlessly fascinated.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 9 April 2000
By Joseph Ritz - Published on
Brian Moore was Graham Greene's favorite living novelist and this book gives a reader several reasons why Greene was a fan of Moore. Only a major emergency could have drawn me from the book after the first chapter. But Moore is more than an engaging mystery writer.
As in all his novels, Moore's main characters struggle with belief and doubt and the knowledge of sin. He offers no easy answers, but he provides a rich meal for any reader anxious for both nourishment and pleasure.
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